Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Mary, Mary, quite contrary,
How does your garden grow?
Silver bells and cockle-shells,
And pretty maids all of a row.

On the surface, this rhyme is innocuous, inoffensive (or is it?). Flowers are lovely and it sounds like Mary might have some serious gardening skills, which is not to be scoffed at. It would be better if she were growing beets and carrots and peas, learning how to provide for herself, but flowers do make the world lovely. However, I have to wonder why Mother Goose describes Mary as contrary without offering any evidence to support this characterization. Given Mother Goose’s bad track record when it comes to portraying women, I wonder if she doesn’t like that Mary is working outside, doing something on her own, instead of sitting around, taking orders and taking care of the house and children. Continue reading →

Week Four in the Mountains: Childhood Revisited

This past week, I picked up a refill of Trotsky’s heartworm medicine. When I got home and inspected what was in the bag, I noticed there was a $12 rebate offer. I’m not one to use coupons very often because 50 cents here and there just doesn’t seem worth my time to clip and organize them. Even when they don’t have 50 exclusions on the back, like the Bed, Bath & Beyond ones do, using coupons just seems too complicated. But I do like to save money when the saved value reaches my arbitray and changeable threshold. I’m a big fan of Groupon and Living Social, and when I was living downtown, it was a rare occasion that I would go out to eat if it wasn’t happy hour. $12 is about the cost of two drinks on happy hour, so taking the time to fill out the rebate seemed worthwhile in this case.

I have near-professional rebate completion training. With one income and five children, my parents were very frugal. My mother was the avid couponer and my father handled the rebates. Being the meticulous instruction follower that I am, filling out the rebates was one of the jobs that earned me my $2/week allowance. I knew where to find the rebate forms on the wall beyond the cash registers in Ames, True Value, and Eckerd Drugs. I read carefully to determine what needed to be circled, whether the UPC code needed to be cut out of the packaging and included, and if we had to include the original receipt or a copy would suffice. These corporations we sent the rebates to were as bad as insurance companies – they were waiting for us to make the slightest wrong move so they would have a legally protected reason to not give us the money. One mishap of my pen and we’d lose all chance of getting that check for a $1.50. They didn’t really want to give back that money anyways. If they did, they would have just supplied a coupon to begin with. But then it would have been in my mother’s domain and I’d have been out of a job. Continue reading →